Wendell Cruz | USA TODAY Sports

For Luis Severino, ALDS Game 3 is more than just another important game for him and his Yankees.

Of course, the 28-year-old righty will never admit that. To Severino, it just means he has to beat the Cleveland Guardians on the road. New York couldn’t string hits together in Game 2, so it’s on Severino to shut Cleveland down in Game 3.

Yet, what nobody seems to realize is that Game 3 should be personal to Luis Severino. If he does his job and turns in an ace performance, then his redemption journey will have come full circle.

You see, back on Oct. 9, 2017, Severino took the ball in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Cleveland then-Indians. This too was a redemption game of sorts, after lasting a third of an inning against Minnesota in the AL Wild Card. It was a performance uncharacteristic of Severino, who posted a 2.98 ERA in the regular season and was the unquestioned Yankees ace.

But on that cool Bronx October night against MLB-best Cleveland, Severino was in ace form from the first pitch. He gave the Yankees seven strong innings with nine strikeouts and 113 pitches, 76 for strikes. New York won 7-3 and then won the decisive Game 5.

Since then, Luis Severino’s baseball career path has turned bumpy. He won 19 games in 2018, but started tipping his pitches in the second half and posted a 5.57 ERA then compared to a 2.31 before the All-Star Break. To add insult to injury, he tipped again in a now infamously bad game in the postseason, Game 3 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. Severino was tagged for six runs in three innings as Boston routed New York 16-1.

It all went downhill from there. Injuries limited Severino to just three starts in 2019 and he never looked comfortable in the playoffs. Tommy John surgery and other injuries kept him out for all of 2020 and all but four relief appearances the following year. Back in the rotation in 2022, there were some understandably serious questions about how much Luis Severino could give this season.

Taking his time getting healthy clearly helped Severino, who posted a 3.18 ERA in 2022. He tossed seven no-hit innings in his final start of the regular season. It was almost enough to forget he was on the injured list for over two months with shoulder tightness.

This is the Luis Severino the Yankees need in Game 3. He must pitch as deep into the game as possible and give New York’s bullpen a rest. Ideally, the Yankees lineup returns the favor and Gerrit Cole can win a potentially-clinching Game 4 on Sunday.

Moreover, Luis Severino may have some financial incentives riding on his Game 3 start. His contract has a $15 million club option for 2023 and the Yankees will almost certainly pick it up. A strong playoff start would only further motivate the front office to do so.

And so, it all comes to a vitally important Game 3, almost exactly five years after Severino first tamed Cleveland in the postseason. If he wins, his redemption story is complete and the Yankees know he’s once again a trustworthy arm. If he loses, he’s just another ace-level arm who struggles in October. Just ask his 5.23 career playoff ERA.

Luis Severino knows exactly what’s on the line in Game 3 of the ALDS and exactly what he must do against these tough Guardians. Let’s see him do it and change his story for the better.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.